It’s a slam jam.

A couple of weeks after the last Fight Club: Pro show (which you can buy here for the stupidly low price of £4), it was my birthday and I was in the pub, slightly tipsy, going on and on about wrestling, to people who could not care less, but it was my birthday, so fuck them they’re going to hear about Trent Seven’s lovely, perfect face.

“I don’t understand the appeal of wrestling, Hazz” said Lisa, my tiny ninja friend, “no offense” she finished, as if she’d just made a remark about my body odour, which is flawless.

“Oh, I’ll make you like it” I said, with a weird menace in my voice.

“Er, I mean, you would like it. It has attractive people doing horrible, wonderful things to each other. Fuck it, come to the next FC:P show, I’ll buy you a ticket, worse that happens is you have to spend a few hours in Wolverhampton.”

“Okay!” she said, in her bouncy, positive Lisa voice which I’m pretty sure she uses for everything, so I’m not sure if she’s genuinely excited or is mentally trying to construct a web of lies and excuses to pull out.

I drink more beer and go on again about wrestling. No one cares.

3 weeks later and we’re in the car to Wolverhampton for FC:P’s The Beginning of the End show. I decide to kill time and see just how little she knows about wrestling.

“Okay, Lise, name me five wrestlers.”

“Er. Hulk Hogan.”

Easy, every knows the Hulkster.

“Macho Man.”

Nice, good pull.

“Randy Savage… is Randy Savage the Macho Man?”

“Yes, that doesn’t count.”

“Damnit. Erm… the lady. With the muscles. I think she’s dead?”

“Chyna?”

“Yes! Oh, poor thing.”

“3 out of 5, come on.”

An agonising few minutes pass as the wife tries not to hit the talkative wrestling nerd who is distracting her while she’s trying to drive. I give her a gentle pat on the head, she’s not amused.

Eventually Lisa remembers John Cena.

“4 out of 5 isn’t bad. So, have you ever actually watched a wrestling match?”

“I think so, when I was younger. My brother would watch, and he’d talk about it with his friends, and they’d talk about it really seriously, like they thought it was real.”

We then have The Talk about wrestling, where she asks if it’s fake, and I explain that no, it’s not fake, it’s just pre-determined, because that’s the cool, hipster way of describing wrestling now. You can read more about that in my wrestling article for The Guardian’s Contributoria paper that no one ever read.

Talking about something being fake in wrestling is difficult, WWE in particular is in a weird place where their obviously “fake” flagship TV shows, Raw and Smackdown, are a lot more real than the “reality” shows they produce, such as Tough Enough and Total Divas. The latter being tightly controlled, overly produced faux-reality bollocks, while the former is insane, comic book theatre where real life issues can bleed into the script, where one slip can lead to a real life injury, where fake cereals named after a bottom becomes a real life thing you can put into your mouth.

We talk about how wrestling is produced, how it’s written like any other form of entertainment, and I explain how wrestling is like a medium unto itself and there are lots and lots of genres. The wrestling we’re going to see tonight will have some laughs, probably some blood and a lot of people getting their fucking face kicked off. I gush about the story going into Travis Banks vs Sami Callihan, about how much painful fun Trent Seven vs Tommy End will be, about how ace it’s going to be to see the first FC:P women’s match between Nixon Newell and Jessicka Havok. We run down the card and she’s genuinely excited, which is relieving, because I didn’t want to shun her forever or superkick her back to Billesley.

Then the show happened.

It was oppressively warm, but still thrilling.

I’ll not go into too much detail about the show, as you should definitely grab the DVD and/or VOD when it’s available. I will say that the I Quit match had a great ending, unlike any I Quit match I can think of, and Travis Banks stole the show for the second time in a row. There were beautiful scenes at the end of the beast of a match between Trent Seven and Tommy End. Thanking the crowd, Tommy went around and hugged every one of us (I’ve still not washed my shirt) after his final FC:P appearance. It was everything that is perfect about wrestling and I was glad Lisa got to see it.

So what did Lisa think?

“It was funnier than I was expecting it to be. And not in a ‘Ha, this is dumb, I’m laughing at it’ kind of way, but more tongue in cheek, it’s okay to laugh at this kind of way.

“When I wasn’t being awestruck by the things that they could do with their own (and each other’s) bodies, I was happy to notice not a single person had their phone out, filming/taking pictures/tweeting while the wrestling was happening. Everyone was joining in, chanting, laughing, just being in the moment and I love that. It felt like a pantomime, but a really angry, sweaty pantomime where jacked, handsome bearded men (and ladies – Ed) beat the crap out of each other for a few awesome hours!”

Fine speech.

I was over the moon that she enjoyed herself and even happier when she revealed she’d bought us tickets for the show on 21 October (which you can buy tickets for here, from the low, low price of £10).

“You’ve created a monster, Hazz.”

If only she knew. There’s a recurring thought amongst wrestling fans that wrestling isn’t and won’t ever be as popular as it was in the late 1990s. What they really mean is that WWE won’t be as popular as it was in the late 1990s (forgetting it’s barely been four months since the biggest WrestleMania of all time). Wrestling, though? Wrestling is fucking huge! ICW is selling 6,000 seats per show in Scotland. Progress are doing shows in the US. Chikara are doing annual tours of the UK. Dozens of promotions from across the world are offering their shows on demand. There’s Lucha Underground, which is redefining what televised wrestling can be, and there’s NJPW World offering some of the best wrestling on the planet for just 999 Yen, Maggle.

The UK is just bursting with talent at the moment, especially in the Midlands, I’m spoilt for choice. We’ve come a long way from the shows I went to as a kid, that were mostly made of tired US imports and featured meaningless, often terrible matches (one show I saw as a teenage Hazz featured a ladder match where someone went for a pin and the ref counted).

Fight Club: Pro has everything I love about pro wrestling and the atmosphere is perfect for a new fan. There isn’t a massive roster, you don’t have five hours (minimum) of TV to watch a week, just simple, consistent storytelling and some fantastic wrestling. Find your own Lisa, bring them to your local show, and see if you can convert someone else, because wrestling is brilliant and it’s fun to call Chris Brookes a wanker.

Merleena.

I think everybody’s weird. We should all celebrate our individuality and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it – Professional weirdo, Johnny Depp

We’re going to take occasional excursions into particular customers. For this chapter we’ll be taking a brief look at a woman called Merleena. I’ve changed her name for legal reasons, but also because if I put her actual name in the book I’m terrified I’ll summon her, Candyman-style, and she’ll come crawling out of my TV, Ring-style, and then she’ll do terrible things to me, Merleena-style. This young woman, whose profile* only explained that she was a young woman, terrified me to my very core. If I had children I would be afraid for their innocent souls. To this day I won’t read her texts at night, terrified that the draft causing the curtains to waft is actually Merleena, waiting, preparing to strike, to lash out, to… coil.

 

If merleena had got a human tied up could she use her powers to ticke the human and would it be torture for the human?

 

Could merleena tickle the human in lots of places at the same time if she had lots of coils around the human?

 

Could merleena tickle the human for a long period of time and would the human stand anychance of escape?

 

If merleena completly coiled a human and she started to tickle, could she make the tickle get worse ova time?

 

How bad could merleena make the tickle over time,could she make it unbearable?

 

If merleena kept tickling the human and made it get worse and she didnt stop what would happen to the human?

 

Could merleena tie a human to a chair so alls that is on show is the humans face?

 

If merleena did tie a human to a chair why would it b uncomfortable for the human?

 

Could merleena coil a human to a bed so alls that could b seen is there face-

 

merleena would like to coil a human until the human was gone could she do that and would it b bad?

Did you ever see that horror movie, Audition? Spoilers if you haven’t, but it’s about this beautiful young woman, Asami. She auditions for a part in a film for producer Shigeharu. It turns out that there is no film and that creep Shigeharu is just checking out women to replace his dead wife. Asami gets the part, but she’s not all that she seems. There’s a particular scene when she’s on the phone to Shigeharu, a smile slowly forming on her face, and then suddenly a large bag in the background starts moving, someone is trapped and struggling inside. Merleena is Asami. It’s all I can think of whenever she texts in about coiling the human, and how much of the human’s face can be seen.

I start to have nightmares about her. She floats in through my window, wearing a dark dress, and long, billowing hair falls around her shoulders. She drifts over me, whispering my name, then the hair starts whipping around her and Merleena becomes a snake. She wraps herself around me, not wildly, not viciously, just calmly and cooly, and the coiling gets tighter and tighter. She starts squeezing now and I can feel the air leaving my lungs and the life slowly draining away from me.

She lowers her lips to my ears, as the serpentine Merleena covers almost all of my body, my face, and whispers “what time is the last train from birmingham snow hill to london marylebone”, and then I wake, screaming in a cold sweat.

I hate this job.


*  Customers could voluntarily fill out little profiles to help give us more information. Name, address (some people would actually give their full address and we had access to their full number, it was a security and privacy nightmare), birthday and any other information they might find relevant. No one ever really gave us anything useful, except one woman who said she was interested in novels about “scary Scottish men with beards”. She’ll pop up again later, don’t worry.

The chips were actually okay.

I’m a Villa supporter so I like to think I know a thing or two about broken hearts, abject misery and dodgy canteen food. As it looks like we’re finally going to be swallowed up by the hungry, angry baby that is the Championship, I thought it might be useful to take a trip to a game there to see what it’s like. I’m a child of the 90s, so I’ve only ever known the Premier League, the comforting voices of Richard Keys and Andy Gray, enforced seating and always being able to play as my team in FIFA. The Match of the Day theme doesn’t quite give me the same nostalgic chills Ready to Go by Republica does.

One day, last Saturday in fact, I get a text from my mate, Ben, who has a spare ticket in the away end at St Andrews. He’s a Sheffield Wednesday fan and I don’t particularly care for the Blues, so I think it would be quite funny to go and watch them lose to some Northern sissies, plus it’s free and I’m unemployed and have nothing else to do. After quickly getting the wife’s express permission, I text Ben back saying I’d love to and we arrange a meet up.

I don’t do many away games. The last non-friendly away game I went to was a 4-0 loss to Chelsea almost ten years ago and that was only because the travel was free. I’d take a 4-0 loss nowadays to have some of the players we had that day – Gareth Barry, Martin Laursen, Isaiah Osbourne (the Brummie Vieria, or Brummie Zidane, I can’t remember which it was at the time). We were so poor in that game that even Andriy Shevchenko managed to score.

Something I didn’t do before setting off on my Wednesday adventure was check the weather. Ben arrived decked in blue and white (he hands me an unbranded blue and white scarf which we will use to slide through the Blues fans like snakes – sneaky little snakes) and soaking wet. I suddenly decide I would rather stay at home with the wife and dog, in the warm, playing some Bloodborne. Alas, like the nameless hunter who has to fight and slash his way through the disease-ridden, monster-plagued streets of Yharnam trying to make it in one piece, so too do I have to go through a similar torture, but worse – Small Heath. In the rain.

We plan to meet at the Dragon in Chinatown, probably the worst Wetherspoons in the city centre. It’s a twisting, labyrinthine den of crap, with too many chairs, too many people, too many children (children aren’t people, not yet). Ben asks if it’s okay if we meet his mates from The Internet and then walk to the ground, in the rain. I am too socially awkward to say no, to say that I’d rather get a bus. I’m too socially awkward to ask why we haven’t just driven to the ground. Instead I just nod, try and find a place to stealthily dry my sodden jeans and wring out my soaked hat. We walk around and around, dodging people carrying very reasonably priced beers and people tucking into fresh out of the microwave curries. We don’t find his friends from The Internet, which sends a brief jolt of glee down my spine (I’m sure they’re lovely, but there’s only so much Yorkshire I can take in one sitting). We head off and I’m pretty sure it’s raining even harder now, like Mother Nature herself is daring me to quit my spirit quest.

“This is what it’s going to be like for the rest of your life with the Villa” the rain taunts as it comes lashing down on my poor, soggy hat.

“Fuck off, rain.”

“What?” Ben says, looking a bit confused.

I shrug and ask if it’s this way, pointing in the vague direction of Digbeth.

“Well, as long as you can get me to the Rainbow, I’ll be able to guide us to the ground from there.”

Ben said he’d been a few times. He’s made the appalling mistake of assuming I have any knowledge of this part of town. I know roughly where I want to go, but I was hoping he’d be leading the way. Bloody northerners. I break into a panicked walk that I try to disguise as a confident, knowing stroll. We end up taking a wrong turn, get drenched by a passing car who thought it would be hilarious to drive through a massive puddle (to be fair, it is hilarious), and then I realise we’ve taken a long cut to Digbeth. We finally spot the coach station, Ben makes a little Northern yelp of recognition, and it’s off to St Andrew’s we go.

We talk about how this is what life is like when you’re a travelling fan in the lower leagues. Ben seems happy enough, apparently happy to trudge along in the rain, which is getting worse and worse. The ground as we approach Mordor becomes craggy and misshapen, much like the faces of the people wearing blue and heading towards the match. My shoes are starting to leak now, my jeans are soaked up to about my shins. We don’t seem to be making any progress as the areas we’re walking in become less and less familiar. Have I gorged myself at 2am at that McDonald’s before? Is that the Dunelm Mill I feign illness for so I don’t have to be with the wife when she’s looking at pillows for the seventh time that month? Then I see it. A blue and white tin shed, like something handmade in a retrofuturistic Brummie favela. Like the default, generic stadium in an N64 football game. I expect some trouble between us and the Blues fans, just because of their reputation, but it’s fine. A few of them are shouting incoherent ramblings, mostly about imagined glories and empty threats, but it’s nothing worse you hear walking down Trinity Road.

We pass through the away gates after a brief groping from security and head through the concrete, practically subterranean path to the stand – like we’re kegs of moonshine being smuggled into a prohibition saloon. There’s a lone canteen open and it’s a bit cheaper than the Villa, so that’s nice. I’m starting to hear lots of northern patois now and Ben, who I’ve known for a good year or so, has suddenly transformed into the most northern man in the world. He’s even walking like a Yorkshireman. We find our seats and Ben greets a few people. I don’t know if he knows them from the away games or if it’s just a weird, friendly thing Orcs like him from the north do. The ground looks about 2/3rds full with huge patches of blue seats staring out at the soggy fans and the soggier players warming up.

The police are approaching now and look pissed. They’re telling some of the Wednesday fans to move and I can’t tell why. They’re sitting too close to a massive flag that’s splitting the stand we’re in and it’s then that I realise we’re sitting right next to some Blues fans. I wonder if they can smell the Villa in me, but they just sit and chew their burgers, waiting for the match to begin. The police are demanding the fans move, who don’t understand why. I don’t know what the Wednesday fans are saying and they sound no miserable than usual. I wrap up, thankful that we’re just under the stand’s roof and wait for the match.

Wednesday are reassuringly shit. They have some promising build-up but can’t do anything with it, which is just like the Villa, but without the promising build-up. The goalie is stretched off, which takes about 10 minutes, and it looks like it’s going to be nightfall before we see a goal, and then in the 51st minute (probably) of the first half Clayton Donaldson scores and the Wednesday fans… grumble a bit. Then they start getting behind the team. Something had seemed weird about this crowd and I couldn’t put my finger on it at first but now I know what it is – no one is suicidal. No one is flinging their balti pie to ground and screaming Paul McGrath’s name just because there’s a wayward pass or a scuffed shot. The atmosphere at Villa Park, rightly or wrongly, has been toxic for years now, and that’s fair enough, you pay your money, you do what you want. I still don’t see how being a dire misery arse, cursing the players every second will elicit a performance, but whatever, this is why I’m only loved by the fans on Football Manager.

Second half is over, we join the queue of exhausted, starving Wednesday fans at the canteen. I order a coffee, Ben gets some chips. We drink coffee and eat chips and discuss being in the Championship. He seems happy enough with their lot. I think the problem with being a Villa fan is that we’ve fallen for our own bullshit. We believe we’re this amazing team with a grand history, which is true to a point, but no one really cares about that. We talk about being a sleeping giant, but we’re practically comatose, a sleeping giant forever rolling over and hitting the snooze button.

Wednesday are a team transformed in the second half and the crowd get behind them. The Blues fans, the 30 seconds after their goal aside, are pretty quiet, but Wednesday’s lot never give up and will them on. Sure, Wednesday fuck up occasionally, some of the players falling over on the sodden pitch, others like former Villa hobbit Barry Bannan runs a lot and passes a lot but doesn’t seem to achieve a lot, but they appreciate him trying. A few changes later, including ‘Big Dave’ Atdhe Nuhiu, and Wednesday suddenly looking like the Premier League team their chants promise they’ll be next season. They score twice, including one absolutely phenomenal goal, and Blues are done. Game over, 2-1.

We head back, more walking (which I hate), more rain (which I hate), but I’m not leaving a football ground thinking I’d wasted my money (I didn’t pay for the ticket, but if I had…) and I want to go again. We pass a child decked out in a full Blues kit crying which is the only thing which manages to warm my heart in the freezing rain.

I’m a bit annoyed about missing the Villa actually win a game, but not as much as I expected. If this is what the Championship is going to be like next season I’ll happily snap up a season ticket. Wednesday win their next match 4-0 and I start thinking about arranging trips up to Sheffield. It feels weird, though, like cheating on your wife, but worse.

Are we going down? Definitely, but I’m not really bothered about being in the Championship any more. I mostly don’t mind the idea of the walking and the rain (I’m hoping someone will just drive me next time). I want to go to Villa Park and not have it feel like a chore. I’m bored of having every game feel like a waste of time and money. Life’s too short, the bank account’s barren. I just want to have fun again. Fuck doing a Leicester, I want to do a Wednesday.

******

I gave up on this article a few days after the game, not being able to face thinking or writing about football. Then we got relegated. The Villa game, which I had a ticket for and skipped to see the Wednesday game, is the last game Villa win this season and they go on a (as of Monday 18 April) 10 game losing streak. All hope is gone, but the memories of the Wednesday game and the idea that maybe, just maybe, we might have a new owner/team next season fills me with a horrible, sick feeling – hope.

Thanks to Ben for the ticket and for the Wednesday fans being proper nice lads.

******

The rare double edit – This has been made hilariously out of date thanks to Bernstein and King resigning. So now I’m just back to being miserable. Unless this is the prelude to a Cameron/Prince William/Kennedy/Ray Ranson takeover.

******

The even rarer triple edit – Well, we were relegated. I don’t know about you, but my eerie, Nostradamus-esque prediction about us going down was downright eerie. Should’ve put a tenner on it. Turns out we got Wednesday at Hillsborough on the first day of the season, for just £45, or 35 trays of St Andrews chips. Here’s another prediction that i’ll edit in September – we’ll win 4-2, a Gabby hat trick sealing the deal.

Elf lives matter.

I’ve been playing video games for a long time. Over 25 years, I reckon. In that time I’ve learned that if I’m tasked to do something in a video game I’m going to get a reward. As the years have gone by and games have got more sophisticated, morality has become an important, if not slightly underbaked video game mechanic. Choosing to do good or bad things have become their own reward, so if I see something bad happening to a character in a game, I know I’ll be rewarded with either kind words, a stat increase or some sort of shiny item to put in my increasingly large pockets with my other, not-as-shiny items.

Until The Witcher 3.

I’m going to be honest, I could never get into The Witcher 1 or 2. 1 was too fiddly for me, too many systems thrown at you during the interminable introductory tutorial. Too many menus and items for someone brought up as a lowly, lazy console gamer. 2 was a bit better, but ran like treacle on my PC and was full of backstory that I couldn’t be bothered getting into. TW3, though? Oh, it has been streamlined (a dirty word for most gamers, but for someone in their 30s who just wants to get into a game before the wife bugs me to go to sleep, it’s some good eatin’). Streamlined just how I like it. The menus aren’t as bad. The tutorials are better. The controls are better. The game runs fairly well on my PS4 (60fps is for hipsters). And damn, this game is tremendous. Since its release in May 2015, the game has won so many awards that they have their own page on Wikipedia. Beyond the amazing quests, the graphics, the combat, the characters and the boobies, there’s one moment, a small incident you could easily miss that I found pretty interesting.

So okay, racism is a thing in TW3, and shortly after you arrive in the gorgeous, sprawling city of Novigrad, you spot a female elf being hassled by some douchebag humans in a market.

“I must go to the well” she says, as they corner her.

“Sure, to poison it, no doubt” one of the racist fuckheads says.

I approach and a cut scene initiates, meaning this is going to be something meaningful. This is going to be something I can sink my left-wing teeth into, something with a reward at the end.

I walk in, all grey and handsome.

“Think the lady’s grown tired of your company.”

The elf claims she’s just getting some water, but the bearded peasants don’t believe her, demanding to know where her bucket is.

“Leave her be” I growl.

They get slightly uppity, then they remember that my job is killing things. Killing big, nasty, powerful scary things and with just a look — I need no more words — they slink off into the relative safety of the crowded market.

At this point I’m expecting the elf to swoon, to thank me, to shower me with gifts, or maybe a warm bed for the night. What I get is a bloody earful.

“Why get involved at all?” she asks, when I say there’s nothing further I can do.

“You didn’t scare those boors off for my sake, but for your own. To feel just and noble. A knight on a swiving white steed. Or do I have it all wrong?”

The camera focuses on her and I swear she’s looking at me, she’s not asking Geralt these questions, she’s asking me.

“Go, vatt’ghern, and remember – we neither need nor want your pity.”

No reward. No gold. No stats were buffed, I wasn’t healed, my morality wasn’t rewarded. Instead I’m mocked and chastised, and I take it a bit personally, because she’s right. I wasn’t doing it for her, I was doing it for the prize, the reward, because I’m motherfucking Geralt of Rivia, the King-Slayer, the Butcher of Blaviken. And this elf, who just wanted to get some water, who will now almost certainly face increasing persecution because of my interference, has reminded me that games can be about more than hunting monsters and rescuing maidens. A game like this can take my preconceptions about RPGs, about how video games can deal with and portray social concepts, and hit me right in the balls with it. In 99% of games this would go one of two ways, I’d save her and be rewarded, or fuck it up and get into a fight. The Witcher 3 says, no, sometimes there’s fuck all you can. There is no right decision.

There are very few games that dare to even play around with ambiguity like this, especially not with budgets like this, and it’s great.

Also, you can slay dragons and shit.

Everything must goo, bab.

The day draws ever nearer, ladies and gentlemen. For the fifth time in their history (the first since proper, quality football started in 1992) Aston Villa are about to drop out the top flight. With the swift fall to the Championship comes the inevitable redundancies of the staff at the Villa who are actually good at their job; the sad paupers that don’t get paid a living wage, and don’t have agents to shackle them to the club, bleeding it dry at one of the lowest points in its history.

Still, at least we beat Small Heath.

Cleaners, kit men and retail staff aren’t the only things Villa are cutting, though, they’re also slashing prices at the online store. Let’s check out a few things you’d be stupid, or Tom Fox, not to buy.

vfb72ha

“Villa fans will spend hours playing with this uniquely crafted Aston Villa Soccerstarz figure of Aleksander Tonev” the description promises, almost threateningly. You’ll probably spend more time playing with this generously discounted toy thing than the racist cockhead did at the Villa (596 minutes, stat fans – you losers). Still, at 50p, you buy hundreds of them, melt them down, form a new, lifesize version and slip him in at the right of midfield. He probably wouldn’t fair much worse.

Thanks for this lad, Stan.

zegvh54

Now, I love God as much as the next Villa fan who sings that shit chant that glorifies the drinking problem that has dogged the man’s life for the last 25 years, but this is perhaps a step too far. But at £12? Come on, you can’t just get this stuff for free on Spotify you know. Oh, actually, you can. Well, you could buy over 20 Tonev figures for that price and still listen to a really depressing cover of The Contender. He’s not an awful singer, he sounds like someone at the Sandwell Snooker Centre during karaoke evenings, the one who everyone eggs on because he doesn’t quite sound like a cat being fed through a wood chipper. Still, £12 to feel miserable is cheaper than a Villa ticket and this also doubles as a tea coaster or, after careful modifications, a nice stabbing tool. Do with it as you please.

dyput6k

You ever sat at your dining table, wondering what you’re going to put on your toast (I’m a big fan of just letting an entire stick of butter rest on some fresh, piping hot toast, and watching it slowly seeping into the bread. It’s almost erotic), then you notice that this is the only thing in your life that isn’t officially stamped with the finest letters in the English alphabet – AVFC.

“Susan!” you cry, wanting to tell your wife about your need for a bread press, because your bread won’t be perfect without those letters, and then you realise than Susan left long ago, taking the kids. So long ago that you’re not even sure if Susan was real. All you know, as you sit there in your Aston Villa pyjamas, your Aston Villa slippers, stirring the tea in your Aston Villa mug with your Aston Villa spoon, is that your life won’t be complete without branded toast. And now, for just £1, you can live that dream. You can be the man you promised Susan you’d become. All for a £1. Do it. Be that man.

geko2ea

You should see some of the shit I have on DVD. Most of it imported from Asia and almost certainly banned in the EU, which, btw, is why I’m supporting a brexit. This is why I wouldn’t judge you for buying this DVD, especially at the super super low low price price of £1. It’s the description that gets me. The claret and blue balls on display of the guy or guyette who wrote it –

Relive all the action, goals and drama of this season plus that memorable FA Cup final at the famous Wembley stadium

Yes, you could relive the 4-0 mauling by Arsenal. The game where Benteke and co decided they couldn’t muster up the energy to get motivated for the final of the oldest football competition in the world. For £1 or less you could also buy the following, superior DVDs on Amazon –

Sniper 3, starring Tom Berenger. You loved Sniper, and you thought Sniper 2 was okay, but nothing will prepare you the pinnacle of Berengertainment that is Sniper 3. It’s only 9p, or just 18% of a Tonev toy.

Horton Hears A Who, with the desperate, miserable voice of Jim Carrey. Oh boy, another 9p bargain.

The Alibi, starring Steve Coogan will cost you just 70p for a new copy. It’s another one of those films you had no idea Steve Coogan made while he pretended anyone cared about anything non-Partridge he’s ever made. Actually, that’s harsh, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Hamlet 2 are shockingly underrated.

Finally, for £1, instead of the highlights of the 4-0 massacre, you could just take a pound coin and thrust it directly into your own eyeball. Just smash it in, twisting around until you feel bone, then stumble over to the phone and call 999. I guarantee it’ll be better than having to see fucking Norwich City attempt to play football ever again.

gtzolrg

Tired of having Randy Lerner metaphorically fuck you up the arse with the endless cavalcade of dismal managerial appointments? Desperate to actually have a piece of Aston Villa inside your body? Then for just £5 (or 10 Tonev toys, maths fans) you can ram this inside you and feel the pleasure. It’ll be less painful than the realisation that you’ve wasted your life watching the Villa during the last 6 years when you could’ve been painting, writing a sonnet, or rubbing one off to that scene in True Detective season one. You know the one I mean. Google it.

Last and definitely least, here’s something no discerning Aston Villa fan could go without –

helb8lz

That’s right, only £2 to celebrate the remaining month or so of the season, and 7 months of this horrible, horrible year. I’ll let the official description sum it up –

 

Show your support for the boys in Claret and Blue all year round with the Aston Villa 2016 Calendar. Filled with fantastic shots of all your favourtie players, perfect for all fans whether your hanging it in the office or your bedroom.

Yep, someone got paid to type up that overly optimistic, typo-filled, illiterate filth. It’s okay, they’ll be out of job by the end of the season. Thank Charles N’Zogbia.

If you buy any of these items (and you should buy them all if you truly love the great, brave sleeping giant lion that is Aston Villa) send me some action shots and I’ll post them for all to see. Or you could not do that, whatever, I’m not your mom.

Magic moments.

John Cena — the Doctor of Thuganomics, and the winner of 10 (TEN!) Slammy Awards — recently gave his opinion on the UFC.

It’s done great to establish itself as a brand, but in comparison with us, it doesn’t resonate with me just because I’m a storyteller. I enjoy the story that we can tell in the ring and like I said, I think [WWE does] it better than everyone.

I mostly like John Cena. I think he’s underrated on the mic, the way he’s able to work the shit out of a crowd that are booing him is phenomenal. Of course, he’s a pandering goon and his character is terrible, reaching a nadir at WrestleMania 31 when he became a patriotic, flag-wanking, anti-immigrant fuckhead, like the obscene botchling lovechild of Mr America and Donald Trump. On the flip side, he’s underrated in the ring, with his US title run producing some fantastic matches.

His thoughts on storytelling, though? No, WWE does not do storytelling better than anyone else. They’re not even the best within their own company. NXT, WWE’s developmental company — whose weekly show has, admittedly, been pretty tedious for a while — has by far the best and most consistent storytelling out of the two. There are no 20 minute promos, no feuds over shampoo commercials, just a man or a woman who wants a title or a fight. Characters actually grow and change over the weeks and months. There are consequences and clean finishes.

Take Bayley. Bayley was the laughing stock of the women’s division, unable to pull out the big victory when it mattered most. But then she improved. She trained harder, she fought better, and pulled out win after win. She put on the performance of a lifetime against Sasha Banks at Takeover Brooklyn and did it again at Takeover Respect (the second match featuring a nice bit of continuity, with Bayley stomping on Sasha’s hands, mirroring a spot from their first match).

The growth and build of American Alpha is similarly brilliant. Chad Gable was a goof who desperately wanted to team with Jason Jordan because he saw something in him. Jordan refused, teaming with all sorts of losers, until finally deciding to give Gable a chance, if only to shut his mouth. Of course, it turned out Gable is awesome and has amazing chemistry with Jordan and they’re now the champs.

The latest WrestleMania is a sad example of WWE being unable to get the basics right. The biggest drawing match — Shane McMahon vs the Undertaker — made no sense from the day it was announced. Shane McMahon, if he won, would gain control of Raw (and by extension the WWE, maybe? It was never clarified, only obfuscated). If Undertaker lost then he’d never appear at a WrestleMania again, per Vince McMahon’s orders. How does this make sense? Shane has no beef with Taker, Taker none with him. If Shane wins and gains control, how does Vince’s banishment of Undertaker stick? Why can’t Shane just instantly overrule Vince? Why were Stephanie and HHH, the people who would fare worse if Shane won, nowhere to be seen? Why didn’t they interfere? Why were they silent?

For a brief, shining second, near the end of the match, I thought we might have some honest-to-God story. Shane McMahon was a wreck after jumping off the 20ft cell, risking his life in front of his wife and children in order to take out the Undertaker and take care of his legacy. He failed, but Taker recognised something in Shane. Shane, with nothing left, was still egging Taker on, begging for more. Taker looked amazed and gave Shane a respectful pat on the face.

It was at this point that I assumed Taker would lay down for Shane. He’d realise that Shane was fighting for a good cause and respect Shane for willing to risk his life for his beliefs. Taker would lay down, let Shane win, because he’d had his time in the sun. He’d had his championships, he’d had the streak, and Shane would be able to save the company he’d spent so long representing and working for.

Nope, instead he tombstoned him, dropped his gloves, and left. Shane’s fight was for nothing. The bad guy won; a downer ending in an evening of downer endings. The next night? Shane McMahon gets control of Raw.

There are no consequences in WWE.

You can do all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify this shit.

Oh, Vince saw how much Shane was willing to fight and rewarded him with Raw control.

Well, Vince actually prefers Shane over the Authority now after the success of Shane’s Raws.

None of this is on-screen. None of this is explained. No one acts like a human being, nothing is logical. Lana leaves Rusev and becomes a big fan of denim and Ziggler’s cock. She then leaves Ziggler, dumps the denim and goes back to Rusev because reasons. You could write a book on the mishandling of the Wyatt family.

Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania was just heartbreaking. Dean was built for weeks as this unbreakable lunatic. He’d taken HHH to the limit, actually being the face of the company while Roman had some incredibly well-timed nasal surgery. And guess what? People loved him. Dean’s character is simple, genuine and interesting. The man can cut a promo, when allowed to, and some of his work with Brock was great. People wanted Dean to win, even if they knew he probably wouldn’t. He should’ve taken Brock to his limits, with a loss ultimately being a character-defining win, a la Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. Instead he got a few kendo shots in, teased weapons he’d obviously never use (some classic WWE writing there, building up to something they know they can’t deliver) and lost to Brock’s three moves of doom. He lost in a match a hell of a lot less brutal than the one he had against Seth Rollins last year, where he took multiple power bombs and was literally buried in chairs and still got back up and almost won. A match three times as long. It was a win that does nothing for Lesnar and continues to squander Ambrose.

This all brings us to WWE and their obsession with manufacturing moments. For the last few years, WrestleMania has become the place for ‘moments.’

When there’s a big spot at WrestleMania now, or a celebrity appearance, nothing can be organic or spontaneous, everything has to be bundled up into a hashtag and proclaimed a WrestleMania Moment®. Announcers sound like robots, proclaiming the Rock fannying around with a flamethrower as a Wrestlemania Moment. No one sounds genuine or natural. Instead of something obviously being a special moment, you are beaten around the head and told what is special, what is memorable. Imagine 2016 Michael Cole calling Mick Foley being thrown off the cell, or Jeff Hardy climbing the ladder in his match against the Undertaker. Sends a fucking shiver down your spine, doesn’t it?

The audience isn’t allowed to have an opinion, despite McMahon insisting he always goes with the crowd. At the Raw after WrestleMania, JBL –, the jibbering, dead-eyed, Play-Doh-faced idiot — told us not to worry about how the crowd was going to react to Roman Reigns. They’re just messing around, having fun. Cheer for Roman. Roman is the man. You like Roman. #RomanEmpire.

If you want the best storytelling in wrestling, go to NXT, LU, Chikara (the kings of continuity), or PROGRESS. WWE does spectacle like no one else and the wrestling can be outstanding, but only one man is allowed to win, and no one is allowed to grow and change, which are the basic tenets of storytelling. WWE is scripted and should be more dramatic and exciting than UFC, that it isn’t is an indictment of Vince McMahon and the creative stranglehold he has over the company.

Shitstarter.

I always feel a bit sorry for genuine video game Kickstarters. The amounts devs ask for is usually in the low six figures, which is nowhere near the amount you need to make most games pitched on the crowdfunding site. Asking for more tends to draw claims of dev ‘greed’ from people who have no idea how games are made. Indeed, when a game raises several million dollars, it’s assumed that that’s WAY more than needed and the game should never be delayed and should be the best thing since sliced I Am Bread.

On the other side, games asking for a tiny amount of money tend to set off alarm bells, and so I introduce to you Indy Scene Wrestling.

Posted on a wrestling subreddit by “a friend”, Indy Scene Wrestling is the work of Shannon Williams of Grind City Gaming Studio. Ignoring the awful title and the lack of any gameplay footage or demo (a Kickstarter of this kind must have a ‘prototype’, which is completely lacking here), the general tone of this just seems off. The dev, who has no prior experience in the industry, is asking for $7,000 to make a fighting game with multiple arenas, a unique ‘living system that interacts with the wrestlers’ and an absurd 11 game modes. $7,000 would pay for maybe a few programmers for one month going by the current average salary, but miraculously, this will all be paid for with $7,000. I asked the developer to break down the costs and how he was going to accomplish all this with such a low amount.

20 weeks worth of work from the current team: $500 Arenas/UI/Shader and Lighting $1200 Gameplay Programming Phase 1 $1500 Creation Suite/Crowd System $1800 Project Management $2000 Networking integration $2000 Animations retouch after Mocap $2000 Misc(Audio and Particles) $11,000

We started building this game from an engine that was a fighting engine already so the damage system and core elements are already there. What the programmers are doing is adding additional grappling option, more controls and interaction with the surrounding environment. Most games spend majority of the finances on animation. I was lucky enough to purchase 2 motion capture suits from another Kickstarter that uses inertial motion capture. More information about this project will be going up soon as well as a video breaking everything down. Also, with me creating the characters, animations, and arenas, we cut down on alot of costs from jump but those prices I gave you are worst case scenarios to make sure the project gets covered.

Now, I’m not pretending to be an expert in video game budgets, but I know for a fact that “arenas/UI/shader and lighting” costs slightly more than $500. UI development alone is a specialised job which would cost more than $500. Nothing has been properly budgeted for; debugging, music (“audio” is way too vague, is that the music, the mixing, the voice acting, the sound effects, all for $2,000? Also, what are particles in this context?), advertising, post-release support, nothing is explained, just a vague mention of animation being the biggest expense.

The game, which is being developed in Unity, is due to launch on three different platforms (being able to deploy a game over various platforms is one of the key features of Unity), which on its own, when you’re looking at support costs, is going to cost more than $7,000.

The developer, who claims to be hiring people from Unity’s forums, is also said to be putting “80% of his salary” into the game, which if true is just sad. This game is not going to be finished. If a playable demo is released it’ll be a miracle and he should really stop before he goes broke. Not that I think he’s actually doing this.

The game is said to use an existing fight game engine, but it’s not said which engine, or how they’ve paid for it (licensing an engine isn’t cheap, that’s going to take a whopper of a chunk out of his $7,000 budget). It’s not explained how a “living crowd system” is going to be added to an existing engine. Video games aren’t like Lego, you can’t just copy and paste stuff. There’s not a Crowd line of code that you attach to your Fighting Game code that magically makes a playable game.

His last game, which failed miserably on Kickstarter, was Detroit On Fire — a thinly veiled rip off of Def Jam Vendetta — which asked for the interestingly specific fund of $10,030, promising appearances from rappers such as Doughboyz Cashout, Icewear Vezzo and fucking Eminem. The extraordinary lack of knowledge about licensing fees further illustrates how insane this guy is. That, or it’s a massive con.

There are only two outcomes with this, I’m afraid. A game that is barely playable, after having $7,000 of fans’ cash sank into it; a game that will almost certainly launch unfinished, riddled with bugs, and looking like something made in 2002. Or it’s a con and you won’t see anything in return for your $7,000. Either way, it’s bad. There’s also the matter of the Paypal-begging, Kickstarter-disguised page here, which is the final bitter cherry on top of this turd of a cake. This is the Shockmaster of Kickstarters, please don’t back it.